Japanese paper is a eureka moment
Inspired by a recent article in FWW, I found a way to use Japanese paper in my house, in a pair of sliding doors for our bedroom closet. But first, a word about this amazing material, called washi. In its thickness and strength, it is more like cloth than paper, and is has beautiful, visible fiber patterns in it. And you can get it with a thin plastic overlay, for easy cleaning, or with a similar layer in the middle, for increased strength. I just used the most common type of plain paper, and we are hoping our cats don’t notice it. So far, so good.
But the really amazing thing is how easy this paper is to apply. After finding this out, it dawned on me that average Japanese people (not just craftsman) have been using washi for eons to make walls and panels in their homes, and changing it out when it gets old and dirty I would guess. So it must be straightforward to DIY (paper walls also say something about parenting skills, but I’ll leave that one alone for now).
The process is simple. The same importers (plentiful on the Web) that sell the paper also sell bottles of rice glue, with a tip that puts glue exactly where you want it. You just spread a thin, flat bead on the back of the frame members. You want any dividers to be flush with the back, since the paper should adhere to those too. After the glue is on, you just clamp the beginning of the paper roll to one end of the frame and roll it down the length of the door, clipping it at the other end. The paper can overlap around all sides. Then just run a finger along the glue lines and let it dry. Afterward, I just used a utility knife to trim off the excess along the glue line.
Now here’s the presto moment. You mist the front of the panels lightly with water–then start stressing out because the paper sags and wrinkles–but you wait patiently for it to dry, trusting that the experts are right. When you come back after an hour, every panel is as tight as a drum! (You can’t help but thump them a few times, though lightly).
My closet doors are just 3/4-in.-thick cherry frames, with dividers that I routed into the back side. The rolling hardware is easy to install and works great. It just press-fits into 35mm holes near the bottom and top of the frame, and comes with simple plastic tracks that press into grooves that you rout in shopmade wood tracks, one above the doors and one below.
I made the finger pulls by clamping the stiles to the tablesaw and raising a dado set into them. The girl in the photo of the finished doors is our youngest, Jane, who is being very careful to keep her mitts off the pretty paper.
Down the road, I plan to make some lamps in order to use this fantastic material again.